Living Amongst Non-Farming Neighbors in Rural Sonoma County

Sonoma County has always been an agricultural community. Our rural communities are rich with farming families who have been doing so for generations. To these families, everyday life on the farm is routine. Farming and ranching practices are second nature and often times we don't consider how outsiders view certain occurrences on the farm.
Written By: Deputy John Fomasi, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
Published: May 1, 2017

Sonoma County has always been an agricultural community. Our rural communities are rich with farming families who have been doing so for generations. To these families, everyday life on the farm is routine. Farming and ranching practices are second nature and often times we don’t consider how outsiders view certain occurrences on the farm. Sonoma County is a very desirable location to live. With that, many people who have little to no knowledge of farming practices routinely move into rural areas of the county. While we welcome new neighbors to rural Sonoma County, the need to educate concerned citizens has become apparent in recent months.

Be aware of things on and around your property. Everyday life on a farm or ranch may seem typical or natural to the property owners, but when outsiders show up they are often times horrified by natural occurrences such as livestock giving birth. In most cases the cows do not need human interference, in fact the cows don’t want us around during this natural process.

To the non-farming public the natural acts of these animals seem cruel. The early stages of birthing are essential to the health and well-being of the newborn animals. The mothers pass on vital nutrients to their newborn. It is well known that the mothers have to eat so they can properly nourish their young. This may mean newborn calves could be left alone for a period of time. Some non-farming citizens will in some cases take it upon themselves to intervene when it is not necessary. While these individuals have good intentions, their actions can jeopardize the wellbeing of livestock, and in some cases cause death to animals.

If you do receive a phone call from one of these concerned citizens telling you that there is an issue with one of your animals, try and get as much information from the caller as you can such as; the person’s name, date and time of the call and the phone number of the caller. It would be a good idea to check on your livestock as soon as possible. If you suspect a livestock theft has occurred, or harm has been done to your livestock, contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately.

In recent months the Sheriff’s Office has seen a rise in agricultural/livestock related crime. The following is a recent Sheriff’s Office press release regarding livestock theft in rural Sonoma County; On or around 3-1-2017, an unidentified female anonymously contacted a local Petaluma rancher about a newborn calf the caller believed it to be ill. The calf was located in a pasture on Thompson Lane in Petaluma. The caller said the calf was alone in the field and needed immediate attention. The caller was frantic and told the rancher she was going to take the calf and feed it. The rancher tried to explain it was normal for a mother cow to leave her newborn calf alone while feeding. A short time later the rancher went to check on the calf. The rancher noticed a Black Angus cow with a white face frantically searching for her calf. It was apparent to the rancher the calf had been stolen.

The suspect most likely thought they were doing a good deed. However, depriving a cow from its calf can cause the cow to be in distress. The longer the calf is separated from its mother, the less likely the cow is to take the calf back. The cow can dry out depriving the calf of necessary nutrients. Stealing the calf also effects the rancher who makes a living off of agriculture. The person responsible could be liable for felony crimes. The public is extremely discouraged in taking matters into their own hands. The Angus calf most likely resembles its mother and would be black with some white in the face. If you have any information regarding this livestock theft please contact Deputy John Fomasi, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Rural Crimes Task Force. 707-565-2121. Case #170315-006.

Another common issue in the county is noise complaints related to agricultural operations. These complaints are normally generated by citizens living in rural communities that may be new to the area. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has adopted Section 30-25, which states a farming operation shall not be considered a nuisance as long as the operation is within normal practices and procedures. The following is the full text of the ordinance; Sec. 30-25. – Nuisance—Agricultural operation.

No agricultural operation conducted or maintained on agricultural land in a manner consistent with proper and accepted customs and standards, as established and followed by similar agricultural operations in the county, shall be or become a nuisance for purposes of this code or county regulations if it was not a nuisance when it began, provided that such operation complies with the requirements of all applicable federal, state, and county statutes, ordinances, rules, regulations, approvals and permits. The provisions of this section shall not apply where a nuisance results from the negligent or improper management or operation of an agricultural operation.

If you are experiencing issues such as these with neighbors, help educate them on normal/natural farming practices. You can also contact the Sheriff’s Office Rural Crimes Task Force for assistance if necessary.

Spring has sprung in Sonoma County and farming operations are gearing up for the summer months. With that, your equipment will be in the fields and exposed to possible theft. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to call and apply for an Owner Applied Number (OAN). We can even assist you in applying the number to your farm equipment. If you have any questions, or would like to apply for an OAN, please call the Sonoma County Rural Crimes Task Force, (707) 565-3940.

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